A few weeks ago, when the unemployment numbers for the President started looking good, the folks on the right decided that the old standby for the unemployment figures was not good enough. It’s been used for years – the last adjustment to it was 1996 – and is the number you hear quoted on the news. It stands at 8.3% today, the same number as February 2009, the first full month that the Obama administration could have responsibility for the numbers. In other words – any additional jobs from here out are an improvement during his term.
So they needed to find a way to somehow paint the accomplishment of lower unemployment in a bad light. They switched to the broader U6 number, which traditionally is nearly double the U3 number. Why? Lets look at what the U6 number includes (from PortalSeven.com):
The U6 unemployment rate counts not only people without work seeking full-time employment (the more familiar U-3 rate), but also counts “marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons.” Note that some of these part-time workers counted as employed by U-3 could be working as little as an hour a week. And the “marginally attached workers” include those who have gotten discouraged and stopped looking, but still want to work. The age considered for this calculation is 16 years and over
A much more comprehensive number, right? And a much more accurate measurement of total unemployment, agreed? So why wouldn’t the folks on the right go after this much bigger scary number?
Well, if they bothered to do a lick of research, they’d see that number is an even better marker of how well the administration has done in getting people back to work. The U6 figure in February ’09 was 15.1%.
In February ’12? 14.9%.
That’s a net gain in the number of people employed in the U6 number. But the real encouraging number is when you look at the U3 and U6 numbers together.
The U3 number staying the same is not all about fanfare. But the interesting thing is, the U6 number means a greater number of people have found work. Since the U6 number includes those who have stopped looking for work, then it stands to reason that more people are working, period. Less people are out of work, underemployed, etc.
It’s fairly simple math. And at the current pace, the U6 number will be better than the previous administration’s closing number (14.2%) fairly soon.
So, what numbers will the GOP gin up next? They can’t claim a single job bill, not a single piece of legislation to explain why the job market has improved. They can claim no credit for this improvement. So what will it be?
Then again, they don’t worry about the burden of facts, do they?
UPDATE 4/7/12 12:04 pm: The U6 number for March shows a continued improvement. The U3 dropped to 8.1% while the U6 dropped to 14.5%. This is below February 2009, the first month the President had full control, and approaching being lower than the January figure of 14.2%. So what’s the GOP – and “professional left” - spin on this? It’s not fast enough. There is continued job growth, more people not only back to work but entering the workforce, and it’s not fast enough. Just goes to show – they have to find a negative spin, no matter how good the news is.